Music vs. Market & Competition

Competition, cui bono?

They say it is good for quality, lowering prices and overall wealth. Really?

From a consumer’s point of view it seems that the more competition there is the better. I doubt it. Look at labour prices (salaries, wages). The employers are happy to pay less for the same or even superior services. Is this wealth? For the employer yes, because he improves his margin by reducing cost. For the employee surely not. In the long run for the employer (owner, shareholder etc.) probably not because there is less buying power of the total of employees. No problem in a globalized market place. Do more export.

The trouble seems to be that we do not distinguish between value and price. Price should of course reflect the value. But in unbalanced markets which are all markets the price does not reflect the value one way or another, or in many ways. And I cannot think of a single balanced market – one where demand and supply are completely even, regulated by a transparent price, without monopolies, oligopolies, corruption, free of government influence, free of non-disclosed power imbalances etc.. There is no price tag for transport (I mean including the real cost for the environment), pollution of the atmosphere, the oceans, suppression of people, war, exploitation of natural ressources, unjust regimes etc.. As long as this is the case we are slaves to beancounters, bankers and other regimes.

Just imagine a market for plumbing services. Say there are 3 companies providing services and 10 households needing them with various incomes. I assume that 1 household will buy the high-quality-high-price service (A) which does not create enough profit for the company to survive. 3 households buy mid-price-mid-quality services (B) and find out from the remaining 6 other households who bought low-price-i-don’t-know-the-quality-services (C) that the results are inexpensive and somehow o.k.. With lowered real incomes, which has been the case for a typical German household during the last 15 years it is most likely that they switch to C.

This will happen in any other industry on a global scale. The low price comes with cheap labour meaning you make the stuff in China or pay illegal salaries and wages e.g. by circumventing national law, employing people somewhere else but let them work here, sailing under a different flag. There are enough people who find the gaps and make their money with them. National influence ends at the border which is why the globalization was not driven by politicians but by business people. Result being that the politicians are hopelessly challenged to find local solutions for global questions. It is ridiculous.

The music business is not any different from other businesses. Used to be, rather. When the product was still physical there was no problem shifting ressources around the globe. Factories, marketing, money, media, you name it. Internet killed the music labels who were the dominant force. And that’s good.

But there is nothing which replaced the physical market in terms of money, revenue. Apart from some major music festivals and live acts there is not much left of the golden days. The consumption of music is always on the rise. But nobody pays for it. That must lead to broke music entrepreneurs, musicians and venues. It did already. After that there is a DJ-like world which only recycles what has been successful, pump it up with some computer beats and ready is some product I don’t want to buy. The fact is that a DJ makes more money these days than a traditional musician.

Competition leads to lower prices, less variety, less wealth and lower quality. If that is what people want, then be it.

I will sing and play my guitar regardless.

Music is the Best …

… said Frank Zappa once.

Some of his works are still being debated, I mean, whether they fall into this category at all. But yes, I mean no, comparisons and categorizations are for sure by no means applicable to music. Music is music, no matter what the industry, the casting show, Mom or Dad, or your children, or the academic may want to tell you. You feel it. Period.

Music is like nutrition for the soul but then again absolutely without a purpose. The other stuff is “Ersatzmusik” as one friend once called it. A means to an end. To make you buy more, essentially. In that elevator in that department store, in that restaurant, on that radio station and in that movie. This is not music, this is product.

There are people, usually those too lazy to work, who promote competition. Those who let others work for them. Of course competition lowers the cost and increases the quality (at least they believe this crap). In music competition is futile, as in most other areas of life. Imagine a band or orchestra and the members trying to be first to end the song or being the loudest.

Music moves you, makes you happy or sad for no particular reason. And if you make it yourself, and that includes dancing, clapping, clicking your fingers, humming etc., it doesn’t make you any richer or famous but, when done correctly, transforms you into a better, nicer and happier human being.

Guess this it worth more than fame and fortune.

Brian Eno on Hindsight

“Instead of shooting arrows at someone else’s target, which I’ve never been very good at, I make my own target around wherever my arrow happens to have landed. You shoot your arrow and then you paint your bulls eye around it, and therefore you have hit the target dead centre.”